Oil Kings 2 Rebels 1
Nobody bothered to tell the Red Deer Rebels or Edmonton Oil Kings there’s supposed to be a bit of rust after a 12-day break.
In the first WHL contest for both clubs since the Christmas Break, the two central division rivals went toe-to-toe for 60 minutes Friday night at the Centrium in front of 4,396 rowdy fans.
Red Deer showed some gusto against the top team in the WHL, throwing everything they had at Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa, who was brilliant for the visitors in the narrow 2-1 victory.
“It was a good game, coming back from the 12-day break. They call it the turkey game for a reason,” said Rebels captain Dawson Barteaux.
“I think we reacted pretty good after the break. I think we played good enough to win, the bounces just didn’t go our way and we’re looking forward to getting back after them (Saturday).”
Even if they didn’t pick up two points Friday, the game signaled another positive step forward for a Rebels club that has played its best hockey of the season in December.
“It’s just staying with it, it’s good for our kids to play against really good teams,” said Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.
“That’s what you want and you measure yourself every day by that and you measure yourself today, from where we were at the start of the year, I’d say we’re making strides.”
In the win, David Kope opened the scoring for the Oil Kings midway through the first, redirecting a Matthew Robertson point shot past Byron Fancy.
Edmonton padded the lead in the second, on a shot from Jalen Luypen that hit Mason Ward’s skate and trickled through Fancy’s five-hole.
The Rebels managed to push back in the third and were rewarded for their efforts seven minutes and 12 seconds into the frame.
Arshdeep Bains battled through several Oil Kings checks and shed a defender before driving wide and slipping the puck just past Cossa. That woke the home side up.
“You see the hard work he put in to get that goal. It gave us a jump to get going and we were all over them after that. We just caught a hot goalie and just couldn’t put one in,” Barteaux added.
Cossa was the first star, he turned aside 30 shots, 12 in the final frame and was a major reason Edmonton captured the win.
Fancy was also solid for the Rebels, stopping 33 shots in the loss.
While the goals might have been the product of fortunate bounces, the effort from both sides in the tight-checking contest was anything but.
“The two goals they got, the second one was unfortunate, but then we got one that was unfortunate, but good for us. Listen, it was a tight game and guys stayed in the fight. I like that,” Sutter said.
“I like the fact that our young guys played hard. We showed some urgency in the third which was important and their goaltender was solid. I told the kids after the game, we played pretty well for the first game back.”
Red Deer heads to Edmonton Saturday for the second half of the home and home, before finishing 2019 on Monday at home against the Everett Silvertips.